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Understanding Behaviorism


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Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition xv Acknowledgements xvii Part I What is Behaviorism? 1 1 Behaviorism: Definition and History 3 Historical Background 3 From Philosophy to Science 3 Objective Psychology 6 Comparative Psychology 7 Early Behaviorism 8 Free Will Versus Determinism 10 Definitions 10 Arguments For and Against Free Will 11 Social Arguments 12 Aesthetic Arguments 13 Folk Psychology 15 Summary 15 Further Reading 17 Keyterms 17 2 Behaviorism as Philosophy of Science 19 Realism versus Pragmatism 19 Realism 19 The Objective Universe 20 Discovery and Truth 20 Sense Data and Subjectivity 20 Explanation 22 Pragmatism 22 Science and Experience 24 Conceptual Economy 25 Explanation and Description 27 Radical Behaviorism and Pragmatism 28 Summary 31 Further Reading 32 Keyterms 32 3 Public, Private, Natural, and Fictional 33 Mentalism 33 Public and Private Events 33 Natural Events 34 Natural, Mental, and Fictional 35 Objections to Mentalism 37 Autonomy: Mental Causes Obstruct Inquiry 37 Superfluity: Explanatory Fictions are Uneconomical 38 Category Mistakes 40 Ryle and the Para?Mechanical Hypothesis 41 Rachlin's Molar Behaviorism 42 Private Events 46 Private Behavior 46 Self?Knowledge and Consciousness 49 Summary 52 Further Reading 54 Keyterms 55 Part II A Scientific Model of Behavior 57 4 Evolutionary Theory and Reinforcement 59 Evolutionary History 59 Natural Selection 60 Reflexes and Fixed Action Patterns 62 Reflexes 62 Fixed Action Patterns 62 Respondent Conditioning 64 Reinforcers and Punishers 66 Operant Behavior 66 Physiological Factors 68 Overview of Phylogenetic Influences 70 History of Reinforcement 70 Selection by Consequences 71 The Law of Effect 71 Shaping and Natural Selection 71 Historical Explanations 75 Summary 77 Further Reading 78 Keyterms 78 5 Purpose and Reinforcement 81 History and Function 81 Using Historical Explanations 82 History Versus Immediate Cause 82 Gaps of Time 82 Functional Units 83 Species as Functional Units 84 Activities as Functional Units 84 Three Meanings of Purpose 86 Purpose as Function 86 Purpose as Cause 87 Purposive Behavior 88 Purposive Machines 89 Selection by Consequences 90 Creativity 90 Purpose as Feeling: Self?Reports 92 Talking About the Future 92 Talking About the Past 92 Feelings as By?Products 93 Summary 94 Further Reading 95 Keyterms 96 6 Stimulus Control and Knowledge 97 Stimulus Control 97 Discriminative Stimuli 98 Extended Sequences and Discriminative Stimuli 100 Discrimination 101 Knowledge 102 Procedural Knowledge: Knowing How 103 Declarative Knowledge: Knowing About 105 Declarative Knowledge and Stimulus Control 105 What is a Lie? 106 Self?Knowledge 107 Public Versus Private Stimuli 107 Introspection 110 The Behavior of Scientists 111 Observation and Discrimination 111 Scientific Knowledge 112 Pragmatism and Contextualism 112 Summary 113 Further Reading 114 Keyterms 115 7 Verbal Behavior and Language 117 What is Verbal Behavior? 117 Communication 117 Verbal Behavior as Operant Behavior 118 Speaking Has Consequences 118 The Verbal Community 118 Speaker and Listener 119 The Verbal Episode 119 The Reinforcement of Verbal Behavior 120 The Listener's Role 121 Examples 122 The Importance of History 122 Sign Language and Gestures 123 Nonhuman Animals 123 Talking to Myself 124 Verbal Behavior versus Language 125 Functional Units and Stimulus Control 126 Verbal Activities as Functional Units 126 Stimulus Control of Verbal Behavior 128 Common Misunderstandings 129 The Generative Nature of Language 129 Talking About Talking 129 Talking About the Future 130 Meaning 131 Reference Theories 131 Symbols and Lexicons 131 The Importance of Context 132 Meaning as Use 133 Consequences and Context 133 Varieties of Use 134 Dictionary Definitions 135 Technical Terms 135 Grammar and Syntax 135 Rules as Descriptions 136 Competence and Performance 136 Grammar and Grammarians 137 Where are the Rules? 137 Summary 138 Further Reading 139 Keyterms 140 8 Rule?Governed Behavior and Thinking 141 What is Rule?Governed Behavior? 141 Rule?Governed versus Implicitly Shaped Behavior 141 Rules: Orders, Instructions, and Advice 143 Always Two Relations 147 The Proximate Reinforcement Relation 147 The Ultimate Reinforcement Relation 149 Learning to Follow Rules 151 Shaping Rule?Following 151 Where are the Rules? 152 Thinking and Problem?Solving 152 Changing Stimuli 153 Precurrent Behavior 155 Summary 157 Further Reading 158 Keyterms 158 Part III Social Issues 159 9 Freedom 161 Uses of the Word Free 161 Being Free: Free Will 161 Feeling Free: Political and Social Freedom 162 Coercion and Aversive Control 163 Freedom and Happiness 165 Objections to the Behavioral View 165 Reinforcement Traps, Bad Habits, and Self?Control 167 Spiritual Freedom 171 The Challenge of Traditional Thinking 173 Summary 174 Further Reading 175 Keyterms 175 10 Responsibility, Credit, and Blame 177 Responsibility and the Causes of Behavior 177 Free Will and the Visibility of Control 177 Assigning Credit and Blame 178 Compassion and Control 179 Responsibility and the Consequences of Behavior 181 What is Responsibility? 182 Practical Considerations: The Need for Control 183 Applying Consequences 184 What Kind of Control? 184 Summary 185 Further Reading 186 Keyterms 186 11 Relationships, Management, and Government 187 Relationships 187 Mutual Reinforcement 188 Individuals and Organizations 189 Exploitation 191 The "Happy Slave" 192 Long?Term Consequences 192 Comparative Well?Being 193 Equity Theory 194 Which Comparisons? 196 Cooperation 197 Control and Counter?Control 197 Counter?Control 197 Equity 200 Power 201 Democracy 203 Summary 204 Further Reading 205 Keyterms 206 12 Values: Religion and Science 207 Questions about Value 207 Moral Relativism 209 Ethical Standards 209 The Law of Human Nature 210 The Question of Origins 212 A Scientific Approach to Values 213 Reinforcers and Punishers 214 Feelings 215 Evolutionary Theory and Values 217 Altruism and Cooperation 219 Morals 223 The Good Life 224 Summary 224 Further Reading 226 Keyterms 226 13 The Evolution of Culture 227 Biological Evolution and Culture 228 Replicators and Fitness 228 Societies 229 Group Selection 231 Definition of Culture 232 Culture and Society 232 Culture and Fitness 233 Traits for Culture 233 Behavioral Specializations 234 Imitation 236 Social Reinforcers and Punishers 237 Variation, Transmission, and Selection 238 Variation 238 Cultural Replicators 239 Meme, Culturgen, Practice 239 Social Reinforcement and Punishment 241 Mutation, Recombination, and Immigration 242 Transmission 243 Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics 243 Transmission by Imitation 244 Transmission by Rule?Governed Behavior 245 Selection 246 Natural Selection in Culture 246 Selective Transmission 246 Rule?Following and Rule?Making 248 The Legend of Eslok 249 Cultural Group Selection 249 Self?Interest 250 Summary 252 Further Reading 254 Keyterms 255 14 Design of Culture: Experimenting for Survival 257 Design from Evolution 257 Selective Breeding 258 Evaluation 258 Survival as a Standard 259 Guided Variation 261 The Experimental Society 262 Experimenting 262 Democracy 263 Happiness 264 Walden Two: Skinner's Vision 265 Interpreting Walden Two 265 Is Walden Two Utopian? 266 Objections 267 Summary 272 Further Reading 273 Keyterms 274 Glossary 275 Index 295

About the Author

William M. Baum is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Hampshire and a Research Associate at University of California, Davis. He taught for seven years at Harvard University and for more than twenty years at the University of New Hampshire. He has published over one hundred journal articles. These have presented quantitative laboratory research, theoretical contributions, and philosophical contributions. His research interests include choice, cultural evolution, behavioural processes, and philosophy of behaviour.


Synthesizing the principles of behavior analysis with contemporary understanding of evolutionary selection, Baum's account progresses systematically from basic pragmatic behavior all the way to the practices that constitute human cultural values. The resulting book is a modern equivalent of B.F. Skinner's ground-breaking Science and Human Behavior. Philip N. Hineline, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Temple University, and President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) In clear, lively prose Baum's book gives students as well as laypeople an understanding of the cutting edge of behavioristic thought. In this third edition, Baum embeds behavioral psychology even more firmly than previously in its proper setting that of evolutionary biology. The book is actually an instrument (like a telescope or a microscope) through which the reader may observe human life as it really is, rather than as common sense (that which says the sun goes round the earth) tells us it is. Howard Rachlin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Stony Brook University In some quarters in the human sciences the roles of reinforcement and punishment in shaping individual behavior and cultural evolution have been neglected. Understanding Behaviorism explains why this is a serious mistake. Peter J. Richerson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of California Davis A mainstay in my undergraduate learning course, Understanding Behaviorism is an excellent text covering the core concepts of both the philosophy of behaviorism and the science of behavior analysis. Dr. Baum provides a clear, accessible introduction that anyone interested in behavior analysis or psychology should read. Matthew Bell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of California San Diego What a thorough and highly intelligible piece of writing! By elucidating the bigger picture and the relation to its parts, this brilliant third edition truly facilitates understanding behaviorism and its relation to evolutionary theory. It will be my go-to-guide for many years of tuition and research to come. Carsta Simon, Doctoral Student, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway

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